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June 19, 2013
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Qualifying Rounds 2012
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Barcelona-bound and coming to win
Today's the day, Euroleague fans! In a few hours, we board a high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona to arrive, as we've all been waiting to do throughout our careers, at the Final Four! My guys are excited, I can tell you that. For a majority of us, it's our first time at the Final Four, so that has us pumped up. We're happy it's a short, two-hour trip to Barcelona. We've got a lot of reporters and fans coming with us. We can't wait to play in a full house at Palau Sant Jordi. I know there will be a lot of people there from all over, since the Maccabi, Panathinaikos and Siena fans travel in big numbers, too. We're looking forward to seeing that huge crowd, interacting with our friends on other teams and just enjoying the moment. I've got a good friend on Siena, Deji Akindele, a former teammate of mine, who I am very happy to see going to the Final Four. We've been phoning, texting and talking on Skype over the years, and of course, in the last few weeks. I also know Jeremy Pargo and Chuck Eidson from Maccabi, so it'll be great to run into those guys. Of course, we'll be there mostly to play some serious basketball. As any team, we will want to savor the moment, but most of all, we're coming to play and to win.
Nobody has anything but the semifinal on our minds now. I have watched Maccabi a few times on Euroleague.TV this year, many of our other guys played against them before. I can tell you they have very good personnel. Jeremy Pargo, whom I mentioned, it a great point guard who can be very aggressive and play under control at the same time. He was MVP of the playoffs, so that says it all. He comes to play. Chuck Eidson does it all, David Blu shoots the lights out, Lior Eliyahu knows us from playing in Spain, and Big Sofo is known all over the world. They are coached by David Blatt, one of the best. So they are loaded, for sure. My opinion of what we have to do with a team like Maccabi is to make it tough for them on every single possession: no easy dunks, no easy layups, no open shots. We need to control the game and play 40 minutes of good defense. If you relax on a team like Maccabi, they can turn a 10-point deficit into a blowout in a matter of minutes. We've got to make it tough on them.
I have to agree with something I read from one of the other players in the Final Four; that playing against Spanish teams is tough because they never give up. That is a fact that gives us extra confidence this weekend, even though some of us will be playing our first Final Four. I remember when I arrived to Spain a few years ago, arriving at midseason to Cajasol in Seville, this year's Eurocup runners-up. When I got to Seville, however, the team was 4-17 and trying to avoid dropping to the second division with 11 games left. I remember heading to the first practice wondering what I would find in terms of motivation from a team that had lost so much. I only watched that practice, and what I saw amazed me. It was so hard and intense, they practiced like a first-place team, not a last-place team. That stood out from the very start, how hard and well Spanish teams practice. From top to bottom, all teams, all 40 minutes, winning by 20 or losing by 20, Spanish teams work that way. And it becomes a habit that we have on this team as well. Last place or first place, home or away, no one takes a game off. It's a good habit that will help us this weekend.
So this is it, the Final Four... As I've mentioned in other blogs, it's been a long time coming for me, to arrive to the Euroleague as a 30-year-old rookie was a dream in itself. To make it to a Final Four my first year just adds to the motivation I feel now. Not a lot of guys get this opportunity. I have friends who have played in Europe since I can't remember and never reached this stage. When we qualified, the first thing I did was call my family and friends and see who could come and be a part of it. They are all happy for me, telling me to enjoy the moment, and I want to help them enjoy it by winning. You can bet I'm going to give it my all. I've put too much work in for a lot of years to say I am just happy to be at the Final Four, win or lose. Too much sweat has gone into my career to say that. I am coming to play and play hard. Yes, it's our first time, and we count on a lot of young guys, but we will use that as motivation, too. We've got plenty of reasons to be motivated. I am coming to Barcelona today to win. I don't know any other way to play.
CLAY TUCKER - MADRID, SPAIN
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
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Barcelona-bound and coming to win
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